Danlo of Dune

Idle Thoughts on War in Heaven

Recent holiday reading included David Zindell's War in Heaven, which concludes his huge great fat 'A Requiem for Homo Sapiens' trilogy, itself a follow-up to the hefty Neverness. Zindell's a pretty good writer, although he could usefully take more care (as Wolfe and Vance do) to provide clarifying context for his odder words. For example, is a genuine distinction being reflected in the fact that the icy skate-ways of Neverness city are variously called glissades, slidderies, glidderies and something else that I forget? I looked up 'cark' when reading The Wild and thought it had good etymological roots for a word meaning 'to load into different media' (most typically, human personality into computer), but never got the hang of 'slel', and remain unable to visualize or etymologize the weapon called a 'tlolt' (subvarieties 'eye-tlolt', 'heat-tlolt' and 'mercury-tlolt' ... probably an acronym with 'target locking' in there somewhere, but hardly one that comes tripping off the tongue like 'laser'). No doubt everything is defined at one point or another, but I haven't read the whole series and could have used the occasional reminder in any case.

Anyway, War in Heaven sees our hero Danlo finally winning through after lots of suffering, and the ending is generally satisfactory – an exception being the good old sf sleight of hand whereby invincible-seeming bad guys like the Silicon God (a galactic-scale machine intelligence) are not so much dealt with as explained away as being, um, really rather unimportant when you know the Big Picture. Which includes offstage di ex machina who have helpfully countered the problem of cosmological limits to growth by – if I understood that bit correctly – introducing continuous creation and retrospectively justifying the steady-state theory. Fred Hoyle should give it a nice review.

Interestingly, Zindell seems to be laying extensive ground-bait for critics by planting a string of parallels between Danlo and Paul Muad'dib of Dune. Both their sagas include the following elements, not all of which are routine trappings of the Hero With A Thousand Sequels ...

A few odd words are also vaguely similar, like drugs called elacca (Herbert) and ekkana (Zindell). One major difference is that Herbert provided a glossary: a Good Thing. Further research is left as an exercise for the student.